Progress Slows Down – Frustrations Abound

Hi Folks,

At this point we got word that our father’s house (where my brother and I were living), which had been on the market a fairly brief time, had a second buyer who wanted to settle by the 15th of May – which was only three weeks away.  I had arranged for my carpenter’s wife, Chris – a really good friend of mine, to come from Oklahoma.  Originally she was going to cook for us and help out where she could.  But when we got the final definite word that the settlement would be on the 15th all plans changed.

Clearly my house would not be finished by the end of May and clearly Chris was going to be needed to help finish packing up the house and getting out.  We had one week when she arrived.  While we were packing up, I had to get the siding (which we had brought to the house from my site to coat with oil/stain/preservative) painted and backt o the site so Dan could put it up.  He was working mainly by himself now because I had to be at the house.  So his progress was slowed down too.  At least I found out that I really had been needed.

In spite of all – which included ordering special stainless steel, ribbed siding nails from Indiana – we did manage to get almost all of the siding up before Chris and Dan left at the end of seven weeks and two half-days of work.  Dan also got everything prepped so that the roof could be put on.

We ran out of the special nails before completing the siding and the new order didn’t arrive until they had left.  The roof had also been delayed for some reason and finally arrived on May 17th instead of April 30th.  I found a roofer pretty easily to install the roof – and it went on days earlier than projected! – except for the last two pieces – because we ran out.  So it’s another two weeks to wait for those pieces to come in.

Dan also finished the porch which is just lovely.  I really enjoy sitting out there on my rocker, feeling the breeze and looking at Pikes Peak.  I really couldn’t have picked a better site to build on than this for so many reasons.

My electrician also came by for a day and we started wiring.  It was a lot more time consuming than I would have thought to get really specific about where I wanted lights and switches and plugs and all the little other things that needed power when you have a house that is a hybrid between a house and an RV.  In fact, I’m still working on choosing lights and fans.  I’m not real happy with what I’m finding on the DC sites.  In the end I think my brother Mark will make DC lights from AC lights I find that I like and we’ll put LED bulbs in them.

This brings us up-to-date with weeks 6-7 and 8.

Roof, Tyvek and a Loft

A lot happened this week too.  I screwed in tons of screws on the roof.  To be fair, Dan did half the roof and I did the other half. We got most of the Tyvek up.  It got too windy to be up on the tall ladders so we had to stop.  We also got the Bitch-i-thane (properly known as Ice and Water Shield) in place on the roof and the front of the trailer.  We also have a floor on the sleeping loft.  Grandkids now have a place to sleep.  And Windows!  Not quite dried-in, but getting pretty close.

End of week five.

Finishing Walls/Roof Begins

Hi Folks,

This week my space begins to take on overhead dimension also.  It was interesting that as we put more parts together my home no longer felt so awkwardly huge and my fears of it being of odd proportion started to go away.  It began to feel just right and just as I had imagined it.

We did go through a bit of a reexamination of things as we approached the roof and ordering roofing material.  The walls were higher than we originally intended and we had to lower the pitch of the roof a bit to make sure I wouldn’t be over 13.5′ tall from the ground.  This gave us some concern about the required pitch to satisfy the requirements of the metal roof.  It also changed the needed length of the panels for the roof (to shorter, fortunately), but they had already been ordered, so that’s the way it was.

And so was the end of week four.

The Beginning of Walls

Oh, these first weeks were exciting as (big) things started happening.  Once we knew we could proceed – that’s just what we did.  Every week we thought we would get more done than we did, but still, there was progress.  The weather was generally great – not too hot, not too cold.  A bit too windy. At times we had real concerns of things blowing apart before we could get them stabilized.

While we (Dan mainly) were framing I had to spend many mornings at Home Depot and elsewhere ordering materials and picking up supplies – or taking things back.  I had wanted to design one section of the framing all by myself but the timing never worked out for that.  I cut many of the boards though and did a ton of screwing in plywood between floor, walls and roof.

Actually, a lot has happened

Hi Folks,

Oh my gosh, a lot has happened since I wrote last – it’s hard to figure out where to begin.  Can’t decide if I just go ahead and post a picture of where things stand right now or make you wait and go back to week two.

I think I’ll do a little of both – show you one picture of how things are now and then go back and fill in the details by weeks.  All along the way there have been things that didn’t go as planned.  Researching materials has been and remains time consuming.  Some items are delayed in arriving.  Some come and are the wrong thing.  People get sick.  Items get charged to me twice – blah, blah, blah.

I’m sure that anyone who has built anything, or taken on any big project knows that these delays are to be expected.  In fact, even though it tries my patience, I know that it has been necessary to working out the right order of things and making the correct choices to have these delays.  I just don’t like it much.

Here’s Gyrtle right now, in all her semi-completed, complete dried-in state.

You will see that I have all my siding (almost) completely stained (almost).  Also, I have my complete roof on (almost – if you look close).  Oh well, one day these things will be completely complete.

So, back to week two.  There are two nests of magpies in the trees behind my house.  This one seemed to be claiming the territory of this strange object coming up so close to its home.

The end of the first week was tough because we didn’t know how to proceed.  I’m going to have radiant floor heat and we really didn’t know what materials to use and how to install them.  If the radiant floor was to go under the subfloor we couldn’t proceed.  But a few trips to ABC Plumbing and consulting with Kurt helped us come to the conclusion that we could go ahead and put the subfloor down with insulation in it and much later in the process we could put the radiant floor panels down.  So we were finally ready to proceed!

In these pictures you’ll see the progression from having just the aluminum which goes under the whole of the structure for protection from water, to putting in the floor joists, having the shiny aluminum that covers both sides of my insulation installed and finally the subfloor is on.  Most of the pictures are of me enjoying walking on my floor the first time and seeing that my idea of the space and what I want in it will actually work.  The only floor missing is my bedroom which will be up on the gooseneck.

Oh Happy Day!

Building Begins!

Hi Folks,

The day finally came – Dan, my carpenter, arrived.  He got here a day later than expected but that turned out to be perfect.  If he’d arrived on Tuesday he would have arrived in the midst of a snowstorm on an incredibly cold, grey day and would have found me in my pajamas, barely able to get out of bed.

When he arrived on Wednesday the sun was shining, the snow melting, and we got started with showing him around the town, getting him set up in his digs and introducing him to Gyrtle.  Thursday we met with Scott to talk over details and then went to move the trailer to it’s exact building spot and get it leveled.  Then we went hunting for southern yellow pine to fill in the flatbed to provide support for the aluminum that will protect the belly of my home from water and invading rodents.

There was no southern yellow pine to be found anywhere so we finally decided on a substitute – douglas fir, I think – which had to be primed.  This happened on Friday.  We also spent most of Friday locating suppliers for various plumbing supplies and getting the order of lumber and other building materials lined up for delivery on Saturday with Home Depot – or maybe that was Thursday.

First thing Saturday morning the truck arrived with the building supplies.  Unfortunately all of the insulation we got was wrong so that will have to go back on Monday.  Saturday we also put those white boards on the trailer.  I actually sawed some of them.  Then we started rolling out the aluminum and siliconing it down.  It was a very cold day and lots of wind so I was glad that nothing blew away – or blew us over.

I find I vascillate between thinking “Wow, this is really cool” and “OMG, how is this actually going to get done?”  There is so much to do, so much to buy, so many details to be worked out.  I did have a moment when I could feel my Dad looking down from the great beyond, enjoying that I was building my own home.

Whistle while you work!

Here are My Drawings of Gyrtle

Hi Folks,

Here are some drawings of how I want my space to be set up.  Because these aren’t photos you need to click on each link to see the drawing – I couldn’t make a true gallery.  These are the kinds of drawings I like to look at and dream about.  Scott, my A&E (architect and Engineer), has detailed drawings that builders like to look at, of course.  I’ll ask him if it’s ok to put those up here too.

Today when I went to buy my self-tapping metals screws at ACE Hardware they had animal walking sticks – sticks with carvings of animals at the end.  They had one of a Turtle!  So I bought it.  I also bought the aluminum for the protection of the bottom of my home.

Sunday it was 82 degrees here.  Today, cold and windy and tonight it is snowing.  I don’t mind if we have snow tonight as long as it melts before Dan gets here and we don’t have to put off starting the building because of a blizzard!

Basic Drawing on Scott’s Template

Some Views of My Home

More Views of Gyrtle

It’s a long and winding road…

Visiting the Trailer at its New Home

Hi Folks,

We got the trailer to its new home in Colorado Springs on Dec. 8th and had a meeting at the trailer to get a closeup look-see and measurements on the 9th.  This is where Gyrtle will be built.  Well, not the exact spot.  We’ll move the trailer to the exact spot in the lot and level it probably on April 3rd – and get started.

I still haven’t ordered the materials though.  I keep having too many questions and I’m just not confident yet that I will buy the correct items.   As far as the wood is concerned, at least, Home Depot has it available immediately.  So I may just wait til Dan, my carpenter, gets here and we can go together and pick it out and make sure it’s right.  I will have to get the aluminum to protect the bottom of my home though.  I promise, I’ll do that tomorrow.  Think I’ll put in another call to my A&E too.

Happy Trails,


It Ain’t Pretty But It’s Mine

Wow – this gallery thing has worked twice in a row now.

Hi Folks,

After I got my truck I started looking for a trailer.  I was familiar with Tumbleweed Houses – the company of Jay Shaffer, one of the forerunners of the small house movement.  (If you go to my “My Mentors” page you’ll find a link to TW Houses.)  I love his esthetic, but for me those houses are just too small.  I’m a musician and I wanted enough room to be able to enjoy playing my electric piano and to do some yoga.  I also want to have friends visit me out in the boonies wherever I am and be able to put them up.  And, I want to be off-grid as much as possible.

Another concern I had was stability while pulling my house around.  My dad often mentioned that a gooseneck or fifth wheel trailer was much more stable and easy to handle than one that fastens onto the bumper.   I really took heed of that.  The thought of my new, lovingly built house tipping over as I went around a curve was more than unsettling.

I started looking at flatbed trailers with goosenecks or fifthwheel connections.  I wasn’t sure what size to get or what other qualifications the trailer needed to have.  I did a lot of searching of Craig’s List and just googling trailers for sale.  Got some idea of trailer costs for new and used trailers.  I had to learn the terminology of trailers – I-beams, dove tails, ramps and the distinction between gooseneck and fifth wheel.

I finally decided that a trailer around 28′ long with a gooseneck would probably do for my purpose.  I located a trailer company in Denver, Jayhawk Trailers.  I called there a few times with a bunch of questions and spoke with Aaron, the owner.  He was a huge help in figuring out what would be best.  His wife Shannon is in the one photo in the previous post, doing all the paper work.  I had him looking out for the right trailer for me and when I visited the first time (with my sister who took the photo of me sitting on the trailer) I saw this trailer and everything began to fall into place.

I bought my trailer on 10/18/11.  It wasn’t very pretty, but I could tell it had good bones and I trusted my advisor and knew he would help me get everything fixed up right.  The trailer needed sanding and painting and new tires and all the brake lights and wiring checked out.  She looks real purty now.

Happy Trails,


Going back to the Beginning

Hi Folks – Success!  I have figured out how to insert a bunch of photos into a post – yay!!!

So now I’ll tell you what this is about.  These photos are from my outing on 12/8/11 with my friend John to pick up my trailer in Denver and bring it down to Colorado Springs so that we could start serious planning of the building of my home.  BTW, Gypsy Turtle Home is too long a title for my home so I call it Gyrtle (soft g like in gypsy).  John drove the rig back since I was barely used to driving my huge truck.

I bought the truck back on 8/23/11 after a good month of searching and researching: what brand of truck, how big an engine, 4WD, crew cab or not, automatic or manual, diesel or gas, etc.  I decided on a 2005 Ford 350 diesel w/ 4WD, automatic transmission, crew cab, and goose neck hookup already in it. It had about 103K miles on it – which is very good for a diesel.  It also came with some really cool extras I never would have put on my “must have” list – a moon roof, keyless entry, leather interior, seat warmers, fog lights, a cattle guard, and some yellow running lights on the cab.

I did end up spending a few bucks more than I’d budgeted, but you have to make a choice from what’s available and on the value you’re getting.  Taxes and registration were significant and I also had a mechanic check everything out and put in a chip to improve mileage and engine performance.  I love the color of my truck and feel quite the “empress of the road” in it now that I’m used to driving it.

I’ll tell you about the process of finding the trailer in the next post.

Keep on Truckin’


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